Saturday, 29 October 2011



Black Death

I hadn’t realised that Cambridge was an international rail hub with SIX platforms and so almost missed my train to Thetford. I munched on an incredibly tasteless ‘Delice de France’ Pizza Bread, only because it was marginally better than sawing my arm off with my Swiss Army Penknife, listening to an incredibly precocious child bang on about model steam trains for forty minutes.

Thetford is a surprisingly attractive little town; I don’t know why I was surprised at this realisation as I strolled through the shopping centre. I was walking out to the start of the Peddars Way as I thought it might be a good idea to limber up a little as I have done virtually no walking at all since the TGO Challenge back in May. It felt good to have a rucksack on again; an old friend of many adventures. Having said how pleasant Thetford is, the main ‘A’ road out towards the start of the Peddars Way is not so pleasant to stroll along.

All nastiness comes to an end eventually and I turned off down to Rushford. The village is set amongst rolling breckland and luxuriant woodland: All quite delightful. I had a look around the wonderful thatched church, which I have found out subsequently was the church used in the film “The Witchfinder General.” The interior is wonderfully calm; it appears I was quite lucky to find it open as it is usually locked. I had time to soak up the atmosphere of the place and admire the ancient wall stencilling. The stillness of the place felt utterly timeless. I took a sneaky peek at the medieval hall behind, built before the Black Death; it looked a gorgeous hideaway hall. You can find out more by clicking on the link I provided, above.

Culturally enriched, I strolled onwards in the afternoon sunshine to meet up with Darren. We soon found an entirely illegal spot to wildcamp: Darren had set his Trailstar to “Storm Height” just to be safe. You never know, do you?


We were serenaded by pheasants, Muntjac and whole battle groups of crows. I had what approximated to ‘proper food’ whilst Darren chomped his way through a whole pile of E Numbers and assorted chemicals. That lad should eat better!


Robin turned up bang on time in the morning and so we took the obligatory “Start Point” photographs before setting off down the leafy National Trail.

Darren & Robin: Peddars Way, Start



For the dog-end of October, we were having beautiful weather and we had a few very relaxing breaks in the sunshine admiring the beautiful Norfolk countryside and skyscapes.


Just after the ‘Dog & Partridge’ it appeared that our Darren was struggling a bit. Enquiries established he had an injured thigh muscle; I had no idea the chap owned such things as ‘muscles’ so I was quite perturbed to then find out that he had bought a dodgy damaged one; probably off the internet. He struggled along, manfully. No gurly wimps on this trip!


The sun was setting before we arrived at the campsite.




For the gear nerdy types amongst the congregation (we have a few, bear with us…) you can see Darren’s MLD Trailstar and Robin’s Duomid. There: That’s dealt with the dreaded kit side of things. No more needs to be said about the stuff. One sentence is quite enough on this blog, thank you very much.

By now, Darren’s leg was proper poorly. He had brought the entire internet with him on his iPhone and iPad but there wasn’t time to deliver a new leg. So he hobbled along to have a break at McDonalds; the reasoning being that the lad seems to run on junk food so this might fix the leg.

Darren in McDonalds

However, not even the crunchy coated nuggets could lift the ailing leg’s spirits and so at this point we waved goodbye to the limb, to meet again later that evening. Darren preferred to keep his leg company, so he stopped as well.

The Adventure was now without its headline adventurer and was down to two men and so we strode off, full of purpose, our E Numbers having been topped up by a Big Macs and Fillet of Fish.


We abided by the Norfolk Constabulary’s warnings and coursed no hares, even though it wasn’t Sunday.


Castle Acre is a pretty little village: quintessentially English. So we took tea in the local pub. Well, Robin took tea and I supported the local brewer.

Robin taking tea


But we couldn’t sit around enjoying ourselves: we had work to do! So we set off once more to head straight as an arrow along the Roman road.

There were poppies. Is this usual at this time of year?


Eventually we clambered our way to a Trig point at a good THREE HUNDRED feet above Her Madge’s Imperial Sea Level. Unaided. No Oxygen was used.


It was a bit drizzly at this point and so Our Robin deployed his latest piece of cool kit: his umbrella. We cut a dash, we do, on these adventures!

We made our day’s objective, the ‘Dabbling Duck’, a fine bistro pub in Great Massingham and pitched camp in their back garden. Wonderfully, we were re-joined by Big Darren and the Norfolk Notable, Martin Rye at our dining table, where great plans of derring-do were plotted.


I seemed to be the only chap on the fine local ales, so I did my level best to make up for my colleagues’ abstemiousness.




What a beautiful morning! There was a good looking young lady at breakfast with us, all lap-topped up on her breakfast table. I can never understand someone who wants to read emails over breakfast… We strode off after an excellent sausages and perfectly fried eggs into the sunshine. This is how backpacking should be done! No worries with the washing up…

Not a cloud in the sky:


There were animals to talk to. It has to be done.



This part of the Peddars Way is quite rolling countryside and it felt good to be bobbing up and down into the little valleys.

DAY 3 Rolling Countryside

DAY 3. More countryside

It really was a gorgeous day. It’s refreshing to have such a simple life on days like this; your only worries are to find food and drink.


I came upon a bargain in Ringstead that Lord Elpus would have been proud to have discovered: It simply said “Hand Raised, Medium Pie” and it was £1.00 instead of £2:35  I fought my way through a good pound in weight of pork pie and washed it down with Fentiman’s Ginger Beer. It’s important to nourish the body as well as the soul on these hikes.

Robin, Darren & Strider

Towards the end of the day, we were met by Darren and his very famous side-kick, Strider, who walked with us to the coast.

Darren Strider & Robin at the coast

The view seawards was spoiled somewhat by a massive wind farm but if you angled your camera away slightly to the east they could be removed from your view.

North Norfolk Coast


  1. thats a lovely sojourn that is, you all look very content. Appalling the lack of support for local brewers these days though, glad you were doing your bit

  2. The Peddars Way is a good stretch of the legs. There are pubs on the route and there are some very nicely signposted from the route as well, with distances and telephone numbers to check that they are open.

    Woodforde's and Elgoods both feature strongly along the route and right now I can say with authority that they are 'drinking well.'

  3. Good post Alan. A fine looking walk and with good company. Always good to camp in a pub garden, with a hearty meal and beer at the end of the day:)

  4. Thank you Mark. It makes you feel warm & fluffy when you get nice comments.

    As to the company - Robin & Big Darren: Dreadful boys! How I coped, I really don't know. They never let a drop pass their lips!

    When Darren's leg played up I wondered if he would leave me the iPad in his will. Robin's kept quiet about his dodgy knee - I would have had his umbrella.

  5. Hi Robin :-) You can leave me your brolly in your will.

  6. Umbrellas I dont do. Fine account of a fine walk in the wilds Alan. Hares all safe and left alone. Well done.

    Good to catch up. Well with all that uphill (hills in Norfolk) you are well set for bigger hills and adventures soon I hope.

  7. It's so...flat! Were you in Holland?

    When I see all these pubs and eateries I realise I've been doing the wrong type of walking these past years - never mind, no excuse now (lol).

    Thoroughly enjoyed the telling of the walk Alan...especially the sunshine that seems to have eluded us up here.


  8. Martin: Just catching up on emails; I'll get back to you both tomorrow on that.

    Norfolk does have a lot going for it in the winter - not much rain and sheltered Breckland sandy pathways. And of course, the pubs.

  9. Ken: Flat... We hit 300 feet, I'll have you know! That's block and tackle stuff for us southerners.

    This is the land of milk & honey - It's always sunny down here. It's grim up north, you know...

  10. Some stunning pics there Alan, almost makes me, couldn't go that far.

  11. Louise: Thank you, Miss. David could always get lucky and get a posting down here in the sunshine!

  12. Lovely walk and an entertaining read, as usual!

  13. Thanks Steve. Readers may feel the urge to pop over to Steve's place to see him prepare to reverse his canoe.

    No, I don't know why he wants to travel backwards either

  14. I'm disappointed that you haven't given your side of the story on the "policeman and the bacon buttie" and "the woman and the horse box" incidents. Your public need to know the truth:

  15. That looked a splendid way to get the legs back into gear and enjoy the autumn countryside. A good balance of path, pub and pints. I enjoyed the photography and the tales of derring-do (well, confronting a McDonalds menu...)

  16. Welcome back - we wondered where you'd got to. Looks lovely. I quite like an open view and a big sky for a change but the old man gets the heebiejeebies away from the hills. He might be tempted by the pints though ...

  17. Nice to see Darren hasn't binned his unique hiking fashion style completely :-)

  18. Lovely Sunday morning reading, noseying in on what my mates have been up to ;)

    I did a bit of walking around Swaffham when my Nan was alive. It's a very special area with unique flora if you keep your eyes peeled (no not counting the poppies!).

  19. Robin: I will not be drawn into pontificating on Darren's police & cannibalism theory. Besides, they have very long arms and I can't run so quickly these days.

    As for the lady driver of the Horsebox of the Apocalypse; she came second to a Peddars Way Pedestrian. "Sail before Steam!"

  20. Nick: Hi. Derring-do indeed. And one of the plans hatched involved a later commenter in this thread...
    There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Watch this space. Anything can happen in the next half hour (or month or so - these plots take time to mature)

  21. Chris: Very sweet of you. I badly needed a leg-stretch and am now ready to tackle a chunk of your High Way. Will try to persuade a few bloggers to come along as well.

  22. Mr Howell, Sir! (Stand by your beds everyone, the Godfather's here!) Jolly nice of you to pop in. Fancy a snifter? Young Darren was wearing this years length of breeks. Mark my words, they will all be following his example before too long.

  23. Helen: Morning! You should be listening to "Songs of Praise" on a Sunday morning; not frittering your life away reading this tosh! But yes: You are of course spot on. Breckland is a wonderful place for flora & fauna. Lord Elpus & Miss Whiplash live on the edge and have written quite a bit on the subject - worth having a peep at Doodlecat.

  24. Looks like a stunning couple of days and it was a pity I couldn't make it.

    It appears my concern that Big D wouldn't last the course was well founded...

  25. 'abstemiousness' crikey...I had to look that one up. Great it true they have sheds that no-one is allowed in because they contain 20 foot chickens? Odd place Norfolk.

  26. Baz: Heartless! Anyone can pick up a poorly leg. "The boy done well" to get as far as he did carrying the dud limb.

  27. OB: I should get a grant for this educational blog.

    There would never be a argument over Sunday lunch with chicken like those as to who would get to have the legs: There's twenty of them.

  28. Heartless? Moi?

    A twenty mile opening day is alot to ask of someone who hasn't backpacked in a (long) while, hence my concern.

  29. Baz: It was 17.5 miles over the whole day of about 9 hours: Hardly a rush.

    Big D walks his dogs every day and has a reasonable level of basic fitness. Be kind to the chap. Anyone can injure a muscle. I was surprised he had one. I don't and looking at Robin I don't think he has many either.

  30. Abstemiousness, say that after a few beers.
    The sacrifice you gave drinking beers alone is a worthy trait to have. Well done Alan.
    Your obviously a man to be with in a crisis.

    Nice photo's and a good post. Enjoyed it. You had better take it nice and easy now. You don't want to over do the leg work before TGO 2012.

  31. Hi Al: I hope things are clearing up for you. How's it going?

    I have to say that I was getting a bit of cabin fever and the trip out to the Peddars Way with two lovely blokes (that'll be Big D & Robin, that will, honestly!) was as much to help me as it was to get Darren out'n'about. I've been piling on the pounds, doing far too much 'good cooking' for my own good lately. So now I just need to keep it up.

    But more on that on a later post!

  32. Looks like a cracking walk Alan. It's pleasing to see that beer is available for those prepared to seek it out. Those of us not familiar with exotic locations like Norfolk could do with a little more information however: is Sterling generally accepted? Do the locals speak English? Is the water OK to drink? Is the wildlife dangerous? Would I need innoculations for Norfolk?

  33. Thanks Alan - a treat. I quite fancy having a go at the Coastal Path one day. It's on my massive list of "walks I'd like to do".

    I'd also like to join CAMRA. I like ale too. ;-)

  34. Mark: Hello Sweetpants. Excellent Ales are Available (and the capitals are important here) for a modest conversion rate of your Lancashire coinage.

    The locals speak in a tongue known only to themselves. The "babelfish device" consists of four of their Norfolk Pints.

    Never, Ever drink water.

    Wildlife can be found in most public houses. Leopard skin is the peculiarly Norfolk dress code for the top female predators.

    Penicillin probably advisable after encountering the top female predators.

    I could provide a guiding service for the princely sum of a pint. I'm very cheap.

  35. Carl: "It's on my massive list of "walks I'd like to do".
    I had one of those, so I linked a few of them together and turned it into a LEJOG, which killed off another one at the same time!

    Ale fuels a walker. It's the calories and minerals etc.

  36. Mate, that was a brilliant write-up. Brilliantly funny. Enjoyed that. Made my miserable as sin day :)

  37. HUH-TENNNNN-SHUN! Royalty on deck! Hello Terry. Mine's a pint.

  38. I heard from somebody (no names, no pack drill) that you crossed some CONTOURS. Is this true?

    I'm shocked.....

    Well done with the pie by the way. Credit where credit's due.

  39. Mike: Someone Blabbed! I'll have 'em.

    Those are the brown squiggly liney things, right? According to Darren's Satmuppy Gadgety Thingumybob we crossed a humungeous number of the blighters. According to my Computery Mappytype Thing we crossed a good deal less.

    There was pain. And suffering. And pints of real ale and one fabuloso pork product in hand-raised pastry with wonderful jelly.

    This walk should win prizes. We didn't get lost either.

  40. Excellent stuff, Alan. And I thought the umbrella was a nice touch. Reminded me of that officer in A Bridge Too Far. Just what a chap needs for Norfolk.
    Alen McF

  41. Hi Alen: Robin has a few lightweight umbrellas to select from. Not a bad idea in the flatlands with little wind.

    Darren brought a couple of swagger sticks with him as well. We crossed one or two quite well made timber bridges. Maybe Robin & Darren had both been out earlier?

  42. Sorry we couldn't join you chaps on your foray (you passed by some splendid pingos btw). Shame about Darren's leg - I have sent him some musical embrocation.

    Challenging terrain, Norfolk.

  43. AHA! (Quite appropriate, being in Alan Partridge country)

    We stood right on the lip of one and wondered - it couldn't be a bomb crater as there was no spoil and some of the trees growing down in the bottom of it were well over 100 years old.

    I was quite thrown as I hadn't realised that the sides could be so steep. Then we wondered if it had been an old flint mine...

    But, BY PINGO! You may well just be spot on Sir!

    Big D's leg seems to be recovering well - he managed to drive me all the way to Berkshire with it.

  44. It is a great walk and also a great bike ride.
    Would have loved to come along even if only for part of it, but sadly economics and car issues conspired against.

    It's tough country though the Peddars Way. It's the hills you know. That's what does the legs in it is. The fact that there aren't any for hours and hours and ......, and then at Castle Acre I seem to remember there's a 1:100 or equivalent.
    Well, the legs just give up at the shock.

    Great Pics too sir. Such memories

    Next time when you do the North Norfolk Coastal Path, or the Icknield Way!

  45. Andy: Spoken like a true Fenlander. You are a wonderful Chap. Looks like the Norfolk Coast Path could be on the cards after the Dales High Way. Would you be up for that? (November)

  46. Very good Alan, especially the gear review. Exciting interaction with bits of Darren, as well. Altogether a Top Trip!

  47. Cracking write up Alan. Never walked in the "east" myself, more of a mountain man - without the beard. Slightly concerned that you have a lovers pet-name for Mark - "Sweetpants"? I shudder to think

  48. November diary is pretty much full at the moment sadly with work, not social. Only the odd weekend free, so maybe a Fri, Sat Sun. But not 20th because Olly could be in big Rugby Match that weekend.
    Diary eases off in Dec after weekend of 3rd/4th (one is orf to a Ball), and because skiing has been postponed until Easter now.
    It's all a bit frenetic really!
    I reckon I need to go for a walk somewhere!

    Email me possible plans some time my good fella.

  49. Which reminds me also.......
    I must get Wendy out and give her a good seeing to! :)

  50. I can cetainly recommend Dales High Way. When we did it, rather than finish at Appleby we opted for Orton instead - it has a chocolate factory you know!!!

    I believe I'm right in saying that the Norfolk Coast Path goes to Brancaster doean't it ...

    Word: 'menopac' ooeer!

  51. MartinB: It was indeed good fun. It was strange to have very stiff legs after getting out of the car back at home; I must get out more often!

    Andy S'n'S: Mark's a gentle soul.

    Mad'n'Bad AndyW: I'll email you later in the week. I have a bit of time in Addenbrookes tomorrow so will be recovering from that for the rest of the week (hopefully!)

    His Holiness the Incredibly Irreverend Dave: A chocolate factory: Sounds like a plan. Yes, I believe the NNCP does go through Brancaster - I had a very happy holiday there many years ago.

  52. Good luck with that my fine fellow.
    I am off to Newmarket for un ultrasound scan on Thu to try and figure out what the lump is where I had a hernia repair in June.
    I am hoping they did actually fix it, but I am not sure so fingers crossed all round.

  53. DHW - an excellent route - you should get both Chris's route card and guide book, and we found the finish in Appleby (lots of 'fleshpots') to be fine - it'll be even better now that the pub in Hoff has reopened.
    Have fun!

  54. David has already had a stay at Wattisham and sadly, hated it. He didn't know me at the time or I would have shown him the best bits around Snape and Aldeburgh. I'm having trouble persuading him down for a trip, but then, I'm happy up here in the hills! Maybe one day, when all those contours become too much and we need a flatter life.

  55. Mad'n'Bad Andy: Hope it all went well for you today, old chum! You don't want any unnecessary lumps down there, do you?

    Martin: Hello, Sunshine! Chris also has a lovely blog that I follow too - not just walking; a nice mix.

    Louise: "Flatter life" indeed! I'll have you know that there monstrous great hills on the Peddars Way: We got up to 300 feet above sea level! :-)

  56. Engrossing and humorous as ever Alan. All tanked up with ale along the way again I see!.
    I mentioned on Robin's blog that I was thinking of the PW and coast as a change from the hills, but keep thinking of a reason not to. Mainly the wild pitching along the way, it gets fraught in low farmland.

  57. Hi Geoff

    I think we were all quite surprised at how easy it would be to wildcamp the Peddars Way. There really are loads of quite out-of-the-way stretches where it would be easy to be camped up out of view of the path and settlements.

    The main problem would be having access to drinking water. But there again, you pass a pub on the first day so you can fill up there. On the second day you pass a McDonalds in the morning and go through Castle Acre around lunchtime, so no problems there either. The third day is a little trickier, as , believe it or not, most of it is quite remote. However you do pass various villages to either side of the Way, so you can easily divert to find supplies.

    I would have thought that backpacking the North Norfolk Coastal Path would be easier but from what I have read on the National Trail website this doesn't appear to be the case, but then again, they will be toeing the line a little. I am pretty sure it is do-able. Our roving correspondent, Big Darren is going to take his wolf pack out this winter looking for suitable spots so we can do the complete path perhaps in the spring.

  58. Hi Alan, it is a lovely walk- I did it last year... wasn't as lucky with the weather as you, sadly- it rained every day! I didn't help myself any by falling over whilst exploring the castle at Castle Acre and straining my ankle!

    I have done half of the Norfolk Coast Path- planning on doing the other half this year, another good walk.

    1. Good Lord Above, Steph!

      I have just been reading your Blog and what you have been getting up to! Thanks for dropping in and saying "Hi!"

      Outstanding stuff! I bet you found the Peddars Way a bit tame after the Marathon des Sables! My son, Felix did that a few years back - he came home almost crippled, but victorious!

      Actually, I really enjoyed the Peddars Way - as you will have realised it's not my normal style of walking - but it was wonderful countryside and I walked it with two great blokes.

      This has been a nice memory jog for me. I shall have a go at the North Norfolk Coastal Path as part of my recovery from my kidney transplant.

  59. Very much enjoyed this account, for all sorts of reasons. I'll be heading off solo on a similar jaunt quite soon. Only concern is to find places to put my head down each day after around 16 miles or so. The longer days at this time of year, as opposed to October, make me think it'll be tricky? I'm envisioning reaching the end of my daily stamina in an endless flat open landscape...

    1. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the rolling character of the scenery around there. There are quite a few places you can pop a single shelter up, out of the way. But be prepared to carry all the water you'll need for the camp.

      Come back and let us know how you got on!


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